Tag Archives: Copenhagen

“THE BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD:” COPENHAGEN’S NOMA – PART 4: BACKSTAGE AT NOMA AND SOME COMMENTARY

Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant that has been voted “The Best Restaurant in the World” (LINK) over and over, was the site of a recent visit by Dorianne, two friends, and me recently. Here are the links to the first three installments of the series: (LINK TO PART 1) (LINK TO PART 2) (LINK TO PART 3).

This post, the final installment in the series, covers the post-meal tour of the facilities at Noma (LINK) and contains some commentary.

After our meal (see parts 2 & 3 of this series), it was good to stand up. We had been sitting for about two and one-half hours in a very intensive activity – eating new things, drinking new wines, talking about the meal and doing our own internal processing without stopping. When I stood up, I realized two things – I had been sitting quite a while and I had a lot to drink. Wine with 20 courses . . .  you do the math.

So I went to the restroom and then joined our party in the preparation kitchen, which is adjacent to and visible from the dining room. The tour, being guided by a young woman who is a chef at Noma (she said that she started as an intern a few years back. She is in her early 20’s, and YES, she knows – or says she knows – what an advantage that is for her). I did not get this young woman’s name, but I am sure that I will be seeing her face in a future foodie magazine as a star chef someplace.

2015-07-22 15.35.08
Assembling the Forest Flavors and Chocolate Desserts.
2015-07-22 15.35.19
North Sea Lobsters all in a Row.
2015-07-22 15.35.39
Presentation Kitchen Activity.
2015-07-22 15.35.53
Getting the Egg Liqueur Ready.

This first kitchen is where things are prepared to be served at the table and where some of the cooking is done.

2015-07-22 15.39.41
Our Young Chef Tour Guide Showing us Around.

Then we went out back of the restaurant to the Laboratory.

That’s right. The LABORATORY.

2015-07-22 15.42.11
The Laboratory Facility.
2015-07-22 15.43.11
Various Plants, Molds, etc., Being Tested for Various Qualities. All Very Mysterious.
2015-07-22 15.43.45
Testing How Certain Berries Age.

Here they try things out – there are all kinds of experiments going on to test various ingredients and what happens to them over time in various marinades, and under various conditions, etc. A very interesting part of the operation.

Upstairs, a private dining room that seats up to twenty. You can rent the room for a lot of money (like thousands of Euros) and then PAY FULL PRICE for your Noma meal!

2015-07-22 15.47.11
The Private Dining Room on the Second Floor.

The Book Shelves of Noma.

2015-07-22 15.38.51 2015-07-22 15.48.14

Action in the hallway: Ironing uniforms.

2015-07-22 15.51.24

The Prep Kitchen – where the action is.

2015-07-22 15.53.27
Cutting Frozen Bones for the Bone Marrow Dish.
2015-07-22 15.52.56
Reindeer Moss.
2015-07-22 15.50.22
The Prep Kitchen Staff – Keep in Mind that Noma Seats 45 or so.

2015-07-22 15.55.11

The Staff Room – where cooking, exploring recipe ideas, relaxing, changing clothes, etc. happens. There is a smaller kitchen, an herb garden, and lots of things stored – mushrooms, etc. Here you really get a sense of the Noma Culture, which is think is the glue that makes Noma what it is – one of the best restaurants in the world. You can see that the people who work here have accepted an ethos that they have had a hand in co-creating. René Redzepi, Owner and Founder and Chef de Cuisine is Daniel Giusti were not on the premises that day. They have brought a powerful culture of creativity, innovation, sustainability and success that seems to permeate the staff in a very good way. To work at Noma is to believe in this ethos, even if your intention is to get some experience and move on. While you are there, you are a true believer. Here is a link a partial list of Noma Alumni (LINK).

2015-07-22 15.56.30
The Kitchen in the Staff Room.
2015-07-22 15.57.16
The Kitchen Garden in the Staff Room.
2015-07-22 16.03.45
Our Group has Lots of Questions for our Guide.

2015-07-22 15.56.11 2015-07-22 16.07.23 2015-07-22 16.07.32

The lounge – near the entry, where you can have a drink before or after, or, I imagine, in lieu of, dinner.

2015-07-22 15.34.14
The Lounge at Noma.
2015-07-22 16.11.20
The Wine Storage in the Lounge.

So ends our tour of Noma.  On to some commentary.

Overall, this wonderful experience. While I did not like everything that I was served (probably not possible), I will say that the experience of the food was overall very enjoyable, both in tasting the dishes and in experiencing the creativity.

We were served 20 courses. My main negative about Noma is that the courses came out too quickly.

We had 20 in that time and it was too much too quickly. This is food that you want to savor – to talk about the amazing combinations of ingredients with your table mates, to take some photos (but of course!), and to taste the wine served and to experience the pairing of food and wine; then to reflect privately for a moment or two and then to share with your fellow diners your impressions and experience.

This takes time. But the next course is here!

I don’t think that this is a minor quibble. I like to savor. I don’t like to feel like they need to move me out to get the next seating in (which was not the case, as the next seating was for dinner). So please, Noma, a bit more time. I am not in a hurry when I am spending this kind of money for this kind of experience. I am sure that all of this has been figured out over time, but for me, it was not optimal in regard to truly enjoying the meal at leisure.

I read the other day of a restaurant opening in Barcelona that will serve 50 courses in two and one-half hours. I doubt I’ll be going there.

The wines at Noma were, let me say, unique (LINK TO LIST AS PDF). I have written about each and posted photos of the labels, but you probably won’t be able to find most of them – maybe one or two. I spoke with Sommelier Yukiyasu Kaneko about his choices. He said that he preferred to use only European wines, and that included a wine from Georgia in the former Soviet Union. He also clearly has a preference for young wines to accompany the fauna heavy Noma menu. All of the wines were whites. I found that the pairings worked well with one or two exceptions, and in those cases the wines were either sour or so very young as to have only rough edges, which I guess was intentional, but I did not agree with those choices.

Note that there is a lounge at Noma, where you can come for a drink or some wine before or after dinner, although you get quite a bit of wine with the paring meals – I recommend a taxi or a designated driver. We walked, and got a bit lost on the way back to our apartment.

How much did it cost? The wine pairing meal was 3100 DKK or about $450 per person. the juice pairing was 2500 DKK or about $367. Expensive, I know. It was Dorianne and my 10th Wedding Anniversary gift to one another, so a very special occasion.

Will I go again? Not sure that I need to, but if the opportunity presents itself – I will strongly consider it. I’d like to see what they do next. Have you been to Noma? Your comments are appreciated.

Photos and text, Copyright 2015 by Jim Lockard

“THE BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD:” COPENHAGEN’S NOMA – PART 3: THE LAST HALF OF THE MEAL

Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant that has been voted “The Best Restaurant in the World” (LINK) over and over, was the site of a recent visit by Dorianne, two friends, and me recently. Here are the links to the first two installments of the series: (LINK TO PART 1)  (LINK TO PART 2).

This post covers the second half of our 18 (actually 20) course meal and wine pairing.

Course #10:

2015-07-22 13.22.07
2012 Coufe Chien, Domaine du Perron, Bugey – Savoie
2015-07-22 13.22.44
Mahogany Clam and Grains.
2015-07-22 13.22.48
Mahogany Clam and Grains.

Our wine for this and the next course is a 2012 Coufe Chien, Domaine du Perron, Bugey – Savoie, Chardonnay (LINK to the 2011) from the Rhone Valley. Young and high in acid with an aromatic nose and hints of citrus, it was a perfect accompaniment to the Mahogany Clam.

The single clam was mounted on a bowl of wet stones (which we were advised not to eat). The uncooked clam meat was sitting in a marinade with a dusting of samfire (LINK) around the top of the shell. The dish was to eaten with a wooden fork. It was delicious – I could have eaten the rest of the dozen, but alas, it was not to be.

Next:

2015-07-22 13.31.40
Monkfish Liver on Toast.
2015-07-22 13.31.45
Monkfish Liver on Toast.

This course, Monkfish liver, cooked then chilled and served very cold on toast, sitting atop a folded napkin. This was a particularly succulent dish, with a great texture and flavor. The Coufe Chien was a beautiful match for this dish. Eaten with fingers.

Next:

2015-07-22 13.43.49
White Asparagus, Goosefoot, and Barley.
2015-07-22 13.44.28
2014 Cuvée Alexandria, Domaine Matassa, Calce – Cote Catalan

Our next wine, a 2014 Cuvée Alexandria, Domaine Matassa, Calce – Cote Catalan (LINK – click on Cuvée Alexandria), is described as a “raw wine,” made from a grape called Muscat d’Alexandria. You won’t find much about this wine, from the Catalan hills in extreme southwest France, online, and I doubt that you will be finding this wine in your local wine shop. The wine is unfiltered, very young and is very raw. I would describe it as bitter and a bit sour. Not for sipping. It reminded me of the must right after fermentation, while the wine is still in the fermentation vessel.

It was served with only one dish, a white asparagus, goosefoot (LINK), and barley plate, this one eaten with utensils. The asparagus was amazing – tender and delicious, the goosefoot and barley added notes of green sour and some texture. And, I was surprised to see that there was some justification for the wine pairing. The Cuvée Alexandria was a decent match, adding to the sour notes of the dish (you would have to like sour), and extending the flavors through a long finish. Intriguing.

For the next course, a new wine:

2015-07-22 13.50.39
The Glasses Accumulate.
2015-07-22 13.53.44
2013 “Aragonite” Julien Guillot, Cruzille – Macon
2015-07-22 13.54.19
Vegetable Flower.

The new wine, a 2013 “Aragonite” Julien Guillot, Cruzille – Macon (LINK)Burgundian Chardonnay, was a return to wine-normalcy for me. Fragrant, well-structured, and clean, the wine drank very well.

The first of two pairings with this wine was called vegetable flower. As you can see, it was nasturtium flowers in a vegetable broth. Delicious and delicate, the wine did not overpower this dish.

Then:

2015-07-22 14.01.53
Lobster and Nasturtium.
2015-07-22 14.02.06
Lobster and Nasturtium.

Lobster and nasturtium was next. A North Sea lobster tail served with nasturtium leaves attached. Paired with the Julien Guillot Chardonnay, it was one of the highlights of the meal.

Now, we enter into a bit more unusual territory:

2015-07-22 14.18.24
2013 Chinuri, Iago’s Wine, Chardakhi – Georgia.
2015-07-22 14.18.34
2013 Chinuri, Iago’s Wine, Chardakhi – Georgia. Back Label in English!

2015-07-22 14.21.34The next wine, a 2013 Chinuri, Iago’s Wine, Chardakhi – Georgia (LINK)was most unusual. Unfiltered, young, sour. Even more so than the Cuvée Alexandria mentioned earlier. This wine was almost unpleasant – there was wine in the mix somewhere, it was just hard to find.

The first pairing was a dried fruit “leather” shaped into a leaf with a number of other items on it, including some garlic and grasshopper flour. It had the consistency but not the flavor of licorice and was very good.

Next:

2015-07-22 14.24.51
Bone Marrow with Flower Soup and Nasturtium Leaves.
2015-07-22 14.24.56
Bone Marrow with Flower Soup and Nasturtium Leaves.

Then, a dish not on our printed menu – beef bone marrow with a “soup” of flowers, and nasturtium leaves. This dish was the only one served that might have called for a red wine, but the Chardonnay did it’s job of pairing pretty well.

At this point, we were visited by the Sommelier, Yukiyasu Kaneko of Japan.

2015-07-22 14.22.09
Noma Sommelier, Yukiyasu Kaneko of Japan.

He answered our questions (I had a longer chat with him later) and explained his theory of using younger wines to compliment Noma’s unique cuisine.

Next:

2015-07-22 14.43.37
2014 Grains de Folie, Bruno Rochard, Coteaux du Layon – Loire.
2015-07-22 14.45.53
The Cheese Course – Not Sure of the Ingredients beyond a Creamy Cow’s Cheese.

The next wine, a 2014 Grains de Folie, Bruno Rochard, Coteaux du Layon – Loire Valley, Chenin Blanc (LINK – Related) comes from a region known for sweet wines. This wine, was a bit on the sweet side of dry. It was light, refreshing, and a nice pairing for the cheese course (also not on the written menu). The pairing worked well. The cheese was light and creamy, in a vegetable broth. Very good.

Now, on to Desserts:

2015-07-22 14.31.37
Berries and Greens Soaked in Vinegar for One Year.
2015-07-22 15.00.24
Forest Flavors – Deep Fried Reindeer Moss Dipped in Chocolate.
2015-07-22 15.00.28
Creme and Dipping Sauce.
2015-07-22 15.00.36
Egg Liqueur.
2015-07-22 15.14.07
Espresso to Finish.

Desserts were a flurry of items, pickled and sweet, with egg liqueur and espresso. The berries and greens soaked in vinegar for one year were very good – each retained much of its original flavor, but the textures were very unusual. The forest greens dipped in chocolate were a combination of tart, sour and sweet – the creme dipping sauce could tip it to the sweet side if you preferred, plus there were some more conventional chocolates on the plate. The egg liqueur was very smooth, much thinner than eggnog, and refreshing.

I should point out that Dorianne has allergies to beef and cow dairy, and the Noma staff made every effort to accommodate her in this regard, substituting ingredients, etc. You let them know 30 days in advance of your reservation about any allergies.

Wow. What a meal! The 18 courses turned out to be 20. We were well-fed, entertained, amazed, and, actually, ready for more. In the next and final installment of this series, I will let you know about the tour that you are offered of the Noma Complex and what you learn about the unique Noma Culture.

Photos and text, Copyright 2015 by Jim Lockard

“THE BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD:” COPENHAGEN’S NOMA – PART 1

How does one blog about a visit to Copenhagen’s Noma, the “best restaurant in the world”? Do you focus on the food, the changing menu of everyday and very unusual ingredients put together in ways that, well, us regular people never would think to do? Do you focus on the wine, paired with the many courses from some of the most obscure and unusual wineries in Europe (only European wines!). Do you focus on the culture of Noma, which can be observed from the friendly greeting from EVERYONE as you enter, through the service of the exceptional and long meal, and via the tour of the premises that is offered after you finish eating? Do you focus on the price – not crazy expensive these days, but an investment nonetheless?

I will attempt to do a bit of everything in this series of four posts, for my visit to Noma with Dorianne and two friends was, if nothing else, an event. It was more than the food, more than the wine, more than the service, more than the culture, more than the location. It was more in just about every sense of the word. It is over 24 hours after we left and I am still not feeling normal, physically, mentally or emotionally. How does a visit to a restaurant do that to someone?

We began to plan our visit to Noma over six months ago. Imagine a 45 seat restaurant with a staff of 45 or more! With a food lab on the premises! That serves 18 or so courses of totally creative dishes! Much of which is foraged! With wine! We decided to go, but getting there was not without its complications and moments of fear.

I researched several websites that were about Noma or about visits to Noma (LINK) (LINK) (LINK). I looked at Noma’s unassuming website (LINK) to find out how to get reservations. They put a month’s worth up at a time, about 3 months in advance. Since we wanted to come in July around the date of our tenth wedding anniversary, I discovered that we needed to be online on April 6th at 10:00 am Copenhagen time.

We were in Spain at the time. I got online a bit late, about 10:10 am, and was informed that I was number 2499 and that there were 2278 people ahead of me waiting to be served. My waiting time would be about 90 minutes. I did not do the math of about 2 seatings a say of 45 people for 31 days, as some of those ahead of me would not be getting the dates they wanted, etc.

About 70 minutes later, I was in. We had booked an apartment in Copenhagen for July 21-24, so I requested a table for four (another couple was going to join us on the trip) on the 23rd through the website (all automated). The response was that I was booked for lunch. Great! That was comparatively easy.

A few days later as expected, I got an email from Noma requesting a credit card number (they have a policy that charges you if you change your reservation), and saying that they were looking forward to seeing us on APRIL 23RD!!!

NO!

I called Noma to try to get this changed and eventually connected with the reservations director. She told me that I made the reservation for April 23rd via the website. I told her that I thought that only July reservations were available on that day. She told me that there were also cancellations available via the website (you heard that here first!). I told her that we would not be in Copenhagen until July, so was there a way to change the reservation?

She checked and said that July 23rd was fully booked. I asked about July 22nd. She said that there was a spot for lunch for four. I said we would take it. Then I hung up and had a glass of wine.

Then, in May, the couple who was going to go to Copenhagen and to Noma with us, cancelled. This put us in the position of either changing our reservation and paying the fine(!!) or finding someone else to go with us. We were in Barcelona when we go the news. What to do?

The next evening in Barcelona, where we were attending and presenting at the Spirituality and Creativity in Management Congress 2015, at the Esade Graduate School, we went to dinner with some of the other attendees and presenters. There we met Ginger Grant, who just happened to be teaching at a graduate program in Copenhagen in July. Match made in heaven! Ginger agreed to come and bring someone to make a party of four.

The Big Day came. We arrived in Copenhagen in the evening on July 21st, had a quiet dinner on the Nyhavn canal, and turned in at our 5th floor walk-up AirBnB.

2015-07-22 20.37.46
Nyhavn Canal area in Copenhagen.

At the appointed hour on July 22nd, we walked the kilometer or so to Noma, met our dining companions outside. A Noma staff member came out and invited us to come in. About 25 staff were gathered inside the front entrance to greet us. It was as international a group as you can imagine, mostly young. We were shown to a table in the rustic, rough-hewn dining room. And the show began.

2015-07-22 16.22.41

The meal and (very unusual) wine pairings will be described in the next two posts, followed by the tour of the restaurant, kitchen, the lab, and the staff room in the final installment over the next few days.